Willys Overland Company
The Willys Overland company history begins as early as 1903 when a gentleman named Claude E. Cox designed the first Overlands. Within a few years initial financial and production struggles led to a partnership with John N. Willys.
In October 1909 the newly reorganized Willys-Overland Motor Company centered its production in Toledo, Ohio where it built its first Overland Model 38. That same year Ford came out with its popular Model T and Claude Cox left Willys Overland to pursue a photographic career.
By 1912 Willys Overland was the nation's second largest auto manufacturer. During this time Willys Overland produced cars under the Willys, Overland and Willys Knight monikers.
In 1926, production of Overlands ceased and the small consumer cars, Whippets, were born.
With many financial crises, including the Great Depression, occurring during the succeeding years, Willys Overland financial status became unstable. Several models were introduced in the years ahead and cutbacks made, but in 1936 Willys-Overland Motor Company reorganized as Willys-Overland Motors, still based in Toledo.
In the mid-to-late 1930s, Willys Overland was one of many American auto manufacturers without any edge on the marketplace. Not until the War Department requisitioned auto manufacturers to bid on mass production of a lightweight truck did the future turn brighter for this manufacturer. In 1941 manufacture of the Willys MB, or Jeep, took place, at first shared between several manufacturers. The eventual military contract brought Willys Overland into the spotlight of auto manufacturers then, and gives it a much more distinctive place in automotive history.